On Wednesday, the MIAA published the Division 1 state playoff pairings, leaving the Merrimack Valley Conference hungry.
The MVC is known for its baseball, although the state has been dry.
An MVC baseball team’s statewide influence was North Andover’s 2019 “Super Eight” triumph.
Central Catholic relocated to state quarters last year. Nice, considering Division 1’s difficulty. As the Raiders await their first opponent (Worcester Doherty or Attleboro) as Andover and Methuen prepare to clash, it’s apparent the major prize is the only one that matters right now.
“We’ve joked about it for years. Frankie Melendez, a Raider senior, said “banner chasing” is a continual objective. In our freshman year, Tyler Normandie and I discussed coming to Central. Seniors have thought about it since.”
Central is optimistic after a 19-3 season and the No. 4 seed. Coach John Sexton sought difficult non-league opposition.
MVC pride extends beyond the three local entrants.
The No. 13 seed, Chelmsford High, can outrun any team in the state.
Melendez said the league is strong this year and has prepared them for what’s coming. “The MVC is underrated.”
Andover’s round-of-32 opener against No. 21 Methuen may be the finest.
“We’re ready, prepared, and hungry,” said Andover co-captain Braeden Archambault. “Every MVC league game is a little different. It’s fierce. We anticipate Methuen to make every game harder.
Archambault doesn’t care how the MVC does this month. He wants a Golden Warrior comeback and extended run.
“Right now, our team’s success is all that matters,” he stated.
Methuen may be the biggest D-1 underdog. The Rangers won 10 of 12 after a 1-7 start.
“We’re confident. The New England Baseball Journal named Ranger senior ace Matt Pappalardo one of 10 probable Massachusetts Player of the Year contenders. “We were very upset starting 1-7 and tried to improve every day.”
Ranger tourney success would certainly legitimize conference depth.
“We’re one of the most competitive conferences in Massachusetts,” said Pappalardo. “The MVC has lots of good talent and teams.”
With Melendez, Nathan Kearney, and junior Josh Florence headed to Stonehill, Central makes sense.
Melendez believed they were ready. “These guys are gritty.”